Namibian ‘refugees’ have one month to leave Botswana or face deportation following the Appeals Court judgement of 26 July in which the government of that country successfully appealed to have them repatriated to their country of origin.
According to Felix Kakula, one of the prominent refugee leaders at the Dukwi camp in Botswana, if the 709 Namibian refugees from the Zambezi Region (former Caprivi) do not sign up for voluntary repatriation before 1 September, they will be forcefully removed.
“We are no longer refugees in Botswana. We are illegal immigrants as per immigration act. The judgement does not consider the political conflict that led us to flee from Caprivi,” added Kakula.
He told Windhoek Observer that they cannot appeal the case since the buck stops at the Appeals Court - the highest court of the land.
The Appeals Court set aside the judgement of August 2018, in which the Namibian refugees won in their bid to not be forcefully removed from Botswana after the deadline for their return home lapsed on 11 July 2018.
The refugees have refused to sign up for repatriation and have continued to claim that they have fears of retribution and persecution by authorities in Namibia, following their flopped (former) Caprivi region secession attempt in 1999.
They have remained at the Dukwi refugee camp pending the review of their application to stay in Botswana until last Friday when their application to remain in that country was annulled.
Over 3,000 Namibian refugees have been repatriated home since the year 2000.
As per the Tripartite Commission agreement, the UNHCR gives a voluntary repatriation package, which includes money and food for three months, while also monitoring and supervising the voluntary repatriation from the country of asylum to the country of origin.
Despite imminent fears of deportation, Kakula said that the refugees have reached a consensus that they are not prepared to return home unless a dialogue between them and the Namibian government is opened up.
“We are not violent. What is it that they are hiding? Why is dialogue not allowed?” he asked, maintaining that the Caprivi was not part of Namibia and was a country on its own when demarcations were made during the Berlin Conference of 1884.
He continues to claim that the current Namibian government annexed the Caprivi to Namibia on 24 June 1999 without the consent of Caprivians.
Kakula further asked if the government of Namibia was willing to accept and unban the United Democratic Party (UDP).
“We can’t just return as citizens. If they think we will abandon our political party, we are not ready to do that,” he said.
The UDP is a banned separatist movement of the former Caprivi (now Zambezi Region) which was led by self-exiled leader Mishake Muyongo.
The Minister of Home Affairs and Immigration, Frans Kapofi has been on record condemning activities involving secessionism and said that Namibia was a unitary state and would not tolerate such actions.
The Head of the Namibian Police Force, Lieutenant General Sebastian Ndeitunga has echoed Kapofi’s sentiments in the past, stating that the UDP is not a registered or recognised political party in Namibia and activities that encourage subversion of the Namibian constitution will not be tolerated.
Contacted for comment, Commissioner for Refugees in the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration, Likius Valombola, said that they were aware of the judgement reached in the Botswana court regarding the repatriation of Namibian refugees.
However, as of now, there have been no indications from former Namibian refugees remaining in Botswana that they want to sign up for voluntary repatriation, according to Valombola.
“The colleagues in Botswana are working on this. By next week we will know how this will be carried out,” he added, saying that they were arranging a meeting between the UNHCR, the government of Botswana and the Namibian government to deliberate on the return of the former Namibian refugees.
Asked about those refugees who want to return on condition that their political party is unbanned, Valombola said he had no knowledge of that issue.